Every television newsroom is a little different depending on the market size, but here is an overview of the jobs at an average news station.
Anchors are inside the TV studio. They read dozens of stories off a teleprompter, usually from the set. Some anchors ad lib more than others, but generally, they follow the rundown laid out by a producer from the top of the show until the very end. Anchors toss to reporters and meteorologists. An anchor may also report, but when they are reading stories in a show, they are called anchors.
Anchors are paid to make it look like everything is going smoothly when it’s not. So it’s very important that an anchor knows enough about what’s going on so that they can keep the show going especially when the teleprompter fails, when news breaks, and when a live shot dies.
Rod Carter is one of the best anchors I’ve ever worked with. He is an incredible storyteller and genuinely cares about the viewers and people he interviews. Rod is great at ad-libbing and adjusting to unexpected changes during live newscasts. He also lifts everyone’s mood with his great sense of humor. USF students Sydney Whitfield and Laurentz Gilmore created this video about his impact on the community:
Want to be an anchor? Practice reading off a teleprompter as often as possible. There are many apps and computer programs you can use. Here are a few of them:
To become an anchor, most people must be reporters first. Reporters generally earn less money than anchors. Reporters must pitch story ideas. A producer, executive producer, assistant news director or news director will assign the reporter to their story every day. Reporters must find contacts and conduct interviews. Reporters are now being increasingly required to shoot and edit their own stories. Some reporters even have to do their own live shots. Reporters must also write web stories and tweets. Some must also shoot and post videos about their stories to social media. Reporters are usually outdoors during their live shots, or on location at a place relevant to their story.
WFLA Senior Investigative Reporter Steve Andrews is one of the best reporters in the nation. I had the privilege of working with him at Tampa’s NBC affiliate. In addition to being incredibly kind and helpful, Steve is a tough and hard-working journalist who everyone should learn from. Steve’s reporting won him seven Emmy Awards and recognition from the Investigative Reporters and Editors Association. I highly suggest you read his articles, listen to his scripts and watch his interview style.
Here’s a short video with Steve’s great advice for journalists to always question what you hear.
USF students Aarian Johnson and Brittany Phillips created the following video about the life of a TV reporter. It explores how four WFLA reporters and photographers deal with the highs and lows of television news. It was produced for the Electronic Field Production course in the spring 2014 semester taught by Travis Bell.
Samuel Burke is one of my favorite international and bilingual reporters who does a great job thinking of active and creative stand-ups. He also enjoys experimenting with social media and tech.
MMJ Joe Little is recognized across the country for his creative stand-ups:
Here’s an example of an active stand up tease by reporter John Rogers:
Here’s an example of an active live shot by reporter Paul Mueller:
Meteorologists usually report the weather from in studio on the green screen. Occasionally producers will put their meteorologists outside, but most of the time they are inside. They study the atmosphere and predict changes in temperature, precipitation, wind, waves, etc. They create graphics which they use during the broadcast and post online.
Sportscasters usually report and anchor the sports news. Nowadays, they are one man bands. They produce, write, shoot, edit and go on air, both on location and in studio. They attend mostly local sports games but occasionally travel with teams.
News producers read and watch news all day long so you don’t have to. A news producer’s job is to save a viewer time by consuming all the news of the day and choosing which stories are the most important. News producers boil curated content down into concise scripts, then add some context for their newscasts.
A news producer is also called a line producer when they booth the newscast live. Producers are in charge of their own shows, usually 30-minutes or one hour each. Producers choose which stories will air depending on each show’s brand and demographic. That usually depends on what time the show airs. Producers decide what order stories air in and how many seconds each story deserves. Producers can write local, national and international stories.
They also decide how the story will be presented (VO, VOSOT, WHIP, PKG, Reader, Graphic, etc.). Producers order or create their own graphics and find video to go with each story. Producers may have writers or associate producers who help them complete the show. Producers directly report to Executive Producers.
During the live newscast, a producer will adjust for breaking news, and communicate any changes. They also communicate with live reporters, photographers, and directors to get the show from beginning to end with everyone on the same page. Producers add or kill stories depending on what time the show ends, so they get the show out at the correct time.
If you want to be a news producer you will usually start out as a writer or an associate producer. There are also segment producers depending on the station.
If you want to be a producer you will need to be good at:
- understanding current events and the context that makes them important to viewers (aka news judgment)
- writing news scripts, teases & headlines very quickly
- spelling & grammar
- clearly delegating tasks and remembering to check if those tasks were completed on time and correctly. The better a producer communicates the better their team will be. For example, if a producer includes specific time codes (in and out) for every sot (and b-roll) their editors will save time and have better direction. If a producer includes specific and accurate source instructions for every video, their editors can spend more time making the videos look good, and less time searching for the video. Another example of a good producer is one that ensures all slugs match. Many bad producers don’t pay attention to slug consistency. This wastes a tremendous amount of time, creates frustration for everyone, and makes it more difficult to find archived video and scripts.
- quickly adding and subtracting time under pressure
- staying calm under intense pressure
- planning ahead to avoid potential problems
- juggling many conversations at the exact same time, listening to several people talking and listening to air at the same time as you speak to others and possibly write and/or do basic math.
Directors in automated shops will code a producer’s shots as designated on the rundown. Ignite is a common automation system that helps reduce the number of people needed to run through a live show. Director code will tell the system, like Ignite, when to open an anchors microphone. It will tell the system when a story is a VO, graphic, live shot, etc. If the shop is not automated, directors will live punch each shot on the rundown. They may also run the audio board depending on whether the station uses a separate audio engineer.
Satellite ENG Coordinator
Live shots and video come through the “sat room.” Coordinators tune in live shots by finding the coordinates of any live truck. They may also tune in live shots from across the country. They also send and receive video files via FTP. The use of mobile devices like LiveU and TVU units means more stations can connect to any station’s sat room from anywhere.
A floor director makes sure anchors are moving to the correct location designated by the producer’s rundown. Floor directors follow the rundown and show the meteoroligist the countdown given by the producer over their headset. Floor directors help make sure anchors look at the correct camera. If there are guest interviews on the show, they also help mic them up and put them on set at the correct time.
News camera operators either physically pan, tilt, zoom, and focus by hand, or use robotic cameras inside a studio. Camera operators follow the producer’s instructions on the rundown to frame up the different shots for any given story. During the live show, the director may tell the camera operator to adjust their shots. Camera operators may also work outside if a set is in the feild, but they are generally stationary where a videographer is expected to walk around scenes and drive to different stories every day. Camera operators usually shoot full segments or shows on set, while videographers will physically go shoot specific stories.
Videographers will usually shoot many stories in one day. Before a videographer goes to a scene or interview, they will be assigned a specific location and time. They will also be told how much to shoot based on what the story will be used for. Some days they shoot enough for a package, other days they’re just spraying the scene of a crime for a quick VO. Most videographers also edit. If you’re interested in being a sports videographer, I encourage you to read 7 things you never knew about being a sports camera operator.
Editors usually spend their day in a small edit bay, or at an editor station. They receive instructions on what video to edit, how to edit it, and where to push it. Sometimes the video goes to air, other times it goes to web, or FTP for a video share. Some editors spend their entire day editing one package, while others spend their time editing promotional material. Others edit dozens of VO’s and VOSOT’s for live newscasts. They must edit under tight deadlines and feed in video before it’s air time.
Assignment Editors gather information by reading press releases and listening to police scanners. They put any newsworthy events on calendars and help prepare for the editorial meetings by coming up with reporter/photographer assignments. They help hold editorial meetings by telling producers and managers which news stories we can cover on any given day. They also do beat checks and keep in touch with law enforcement to help get breaking news to the producers. They also run background checks on suspects and gather information that may help producers or reporters do their jobs more efficiently. Weekend assignment editors may also have to post web stories and videos.
Web producers populate a station’s website and social media platforms. They gather news from the internet and help post local stories. They write breaking news push alerts, Tweets, and Facebook posts. They also look for trending stories and communicate interesting stories to producers.
Executive producers supervise line producers. They have oversight of news stories from each show and communicate information and changes to producers so everyone is on the same page. There are usually three executive producers in each station (overnights, dayside and nightside). They communicate with the reporters and help decide whether a reporter will switch stories and/or shows. They also read through producers’ script to look for any errors or suggest improvements.
Assistant News Director
Assistant News Directors supervise Executive Producers. There is one Assistant News Director at each station. They communicate any major changes to executive producers and producers. They usually spend half of their time helping executive producers, producers, anchors and reporters, and the rest of their time reporting to the News Director. Some Assistant News Directors help with budgets, hiring and staffing issues. They also communicate with the sales and marketing teams.
A News Director largely deals with budgets and improving revenue sources. The News Director should lead the stations branding and make sure the editorial content is consistent. News Directors decide when to spend money on new equipment and/or staff, or when to fire people.
A General Manager oversees all operations at a station. Occasionally, they also oversee several stations at once. A general manager will communicate with other stations which share the same owner. Most stations are owned by big companies like Scripps, Media General, Gannett, etc.
There are more jobs like engineers, tech support, marketing, sales, promotions, etc.
Here’s an interesting article about newsroom job staffing: http://rtdna.org/article/rtdna_research_newsroom_staffing